|Dr. Auschwitz: Josef Mengele
|is why he could help Dr. B. adapt to Auschwitz and be an
inspiration to him despite their ideological and characterological
Above all, Mengele could combine his ideology and medical
energies to impose a logic on the entire Auschwitz killing process. Observing
his fit with the place and the energies it released in him, other
SS doctors, and to an extent inmates as well, could not help but feel that
Auschwitz logic. Mengele himself of course experienced that logic
even when he objected to specific policies (the destruction of the Polish
intelligentsia and the annihilation of the Gypsy camp). For these objections
were based on an ideal Nazi vision, which he wanted Auschwitz to live up to
(and he apparently considered these two groups to be essentially
Aryan). His ideological dedication and discipline were such that
his objection to aspects of the larger Nazi-Auschwitz vision never diminished
might even have intensified his allegiance to the whole of it. In
brutally tracking down for the crematorium the same Gypsy children on whom he
had lavished so much affection, he was demonstrating not merely his obedience
to orders but his loyalty to a higher truth whatever the lesser errors within
it. The Auschwitz logic he disseminated had to do with the conviction of his
performance there, and it was medical logic.
conviction in turn was a manifestation of his talent for doubling, having
greatly to do with his schizoid tendencies and inclinations toward numbed
detachment a talent that Auschwitz as an institution strongly nurtured.
There was, then, a mutually reinforcing process a vicious circle
in his proclivity for doubling, the Auschwitz demand for it, and his energetic
expression of it there. Dr. Tadeusz S.s characterization of him as
the perfect SS man might well be changed to the perfect
Auschwitz SS advocate and physician-mentor. Mengele could become the
quintessential Auschwitz pedant because his actions so well articulated the
camps essence. ..
It was precisely this special vitality achieved
in Auschwitz that Dr. B. referred to as Mengeles strong life
principle a life principle that included omnipotent-sadistic
impulses of rare intensity to which he could all too easily give vent in
Auschwitz. Whatever the self-absorption and brooding in his dead
eyes, Mengele was probably the most alive Nazi doctor in Auschwitz. In
speaking of him as a doctor playing God and then reversing that
image to God playing doctor, one prisoner doctor touched upon
Mengeles sense of being the embodiment of a larger spiritual principle,
the incarnation of a sacred Nazi deity whether that deity was itself an
ideological vision of the future or the Führer himself.
|Evil Deity or Evil Human Being?
| This demonization process, initiated in Mengeles
mode of functioning in Auschwitz, helps us to understand his aura and his
significance for Auschwitz inmates as well as for ourselves today. Here we
return to the Mengele legend: the image of Mengele as an evil deity.